Pop Culture

‘American Idol’ gets down to final four

Matt Giraud had more chances than anyone in recent memory on “American Idol,” but the coolest cat on the show finally had the clock run out on him this week.

The dueling piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich. earned a wild-card berth into the final 13, and a judges’ save kept him around two weeks ago. After a Tuesday night where everybody performed well and more than 47 million votes were cast, he couldn’t muster up quite enough support to stay the game.

“I’ll remember being the cat with nine lives here,” Matt said. As far as the judges are concerned, however, he may receive a 10th life in the coming years as another successful alum returning to the stage to plug a hit single.

“One of the best things we did this season was save you,” Kara DioGuardi said. “You’re going to have a brilliant career.”

The twilight of his ‘Idol’ run?: Many viewers were shocked when Adam Lambert was named the week's second-lowest vote-getter, since he’s been the judges’ favorite all season. Perhaps his fans took his success for granted and watched the basketball or hockey playoffs instead of voting, and all will be well again next week. But for the first time in about two months, he’ll have reason to feel pressure when he takes the stage next week.

Downloads don’t equal votes: Kris Allen was also in the bottom three this week, and like Adam, it was the first time all year he’s been in that situation. Interestingly, the results show aired on the same day that a story broke saying that nine of Kris and Adam's songs are among the top 10 “Idol” downloads on iTunes. Isn’t “Idol” supposed to predict which of its performers can sell records, rather than nearly having its top revenue-generators booted off the show?

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    Kris Allen and Adam Lambert will compete for the season 8 crown on “American Idol.” 

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    The final 2

    Adam Lambert and Kris Allen will square off in the season 8 finale of "American Idol" on Tuesday, May 19. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, May 20.

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    Goodbye Gokey

    Danny Gokey, who never finished among the bottom three vote-getters all season, was sent home on Wednesday, May 13.

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    One last hug

    Danny Gokey, left, receives a hug from Kris Allen and applause from Adam Lambert after learning he had been eliminated on Wednesday, May 13.

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    'Waking Up' the crowd

    Katy Perry was the headliner among the guest performers on Wednesday, May 13, and she did an excellent job playing to the young male portion of the fan base. To perform "Waking Up in Vegas," she showed up in an Elvis cape with "Adam Lambert" embroidered on the back, and not much else.

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    Awaiting their fate

    The final 3 contestants, Danny Gokey, left, Kris Allen, center, and Adam Lambert gather together to hear who will advance to the "American Idol" final.

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    Shooting Sparks

    Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks returned to "American Idol" on Wednesday, May 13, and performed "Battlefield."

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    Future 'Idol'

    Singer Alicia Keys and Rwandan singer Noah Mushimiyimana appear together onstage on Wednesday, May 13. As part of "Idol Gives Back" and the show's charity efforts in Africa, Keys asked for $5 contributions and Noah performed for the crowd.

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    Making his pitch

    Milwaukee local Danny Gokey throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers baseball game on Friday, May 8, in Milwaukee. Gokey and the remaining "Idol" finalists visited their hometowns in advance of the May 12 show.

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    A brave performance

    Danny Gokey sings the national anthem before the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers baseball game on Friday, May 8, in Milwaukee.

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    Hometown love

    Fans of "American Idol" finalist Kris Allen listen as he performs in Little Rock, Ark., on Friday, May 8. Allen is from Conway, Ark.

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    Talking to his peeps

    Kris Allen speaks to a crowd of fans during his performance on Friday, May 8, in Little Rock, Ark.

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    High school reunion

    Finalist Adam Lambert waves to fans during a visit to his alma mater, Mt. Carmel High School, in San Diego on Friday, May 8.

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    Sing it, Adam

    Adam Lambert performs for fans during a visit to his alma mater, Mt. Carmel High School, in San Diego on Friday, May 8.

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    Final 3

    Kris Allen (from left), Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert are the last "Idol" contestants standing after Allison Iraheta was sent home on Wednesday, May 6.

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    One final song

    Allison Iraheta performs for the final time on "American Idol" on Wednesday, May 6.

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    It's Paula!

    Paula Abdul performed her new single, "I'm Just Here for the Music," on Wednesday, May 6. The "Idol" judge, a former dancer, had some good moves, but her lip synching was a bit rusty.

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    More than just a girl

    Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt performed their hit "I'm Just a Girl" on "American Idol" on Wednesday, May 6. Stefani changed some of the words of the song to "I'm just a girl on 'American Idol'."

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    Daughtry!

    Former "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry returned to the show with his band on Wednesday, May 6 to perform "No Surprise," the first single from his new album.

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    Group rock-out

    Contestants Kris Allen, left, and Allison Iraheta, second from left, Danny Gokey, second from right, and Adam Lambert, right, perform with guitarist, and this week's mentor, Slash on Wednesday, May 6.

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    These four are tops

    "American Idol" contestants, from left, Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta are seen backstage after the elimination show on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 in Los Angeles.

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    Golden moment

    Natalie Cole performs "Something's Gotta Give" on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 29.

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    Soul is back on patrol

    Season five "Idol" champion Taylor Hicks performs on the show on Wednesday, April 29, in Los Angeles. He offered advice for the final five, saying, “Right now it’s about song choices, and also making the right moves on stage.”

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    Taking 'Blame'

    Singer/actor Jamie Foxx performs his song "Blame It" on Wednesday, April 29. The guest-mentor said, “I saw five of the most talented people I’ve seen in the last 10 years," and he begged the “Idol” audience to support the finalists even after the show ends.

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    Out of luck

    "Idol" contestants Matt Giraud, left, and Adam Lambert stand in the bottom two on the Wednesday, April 29, elimination show. “I’ll remember being the cat with nine lives here,” said Giraud, who received the only judges' save this season. But he finally ran out of luck and was sent home.

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    Five still alive

    After the April 22 elimination show, Danny Gokey (from left), Adam Lambert, Alison Iraheta, Kris Allen and Matt Giraud remained standing on "American Idol."

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    Going to Carolina

    Having been in the bottom three more often than not all season, Anoop Desai had to figure he would be sent home sooner or later. “I’m still really disappointed,” the University of North Carolina student said, “but now I have to look at the bright side — I’m going back to Chapel Hill.”

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    Everything's Archie

    Last season's runner-up David Archuleta returned to the stage on Wednesday, April 22 to sing “Touch My Hand” before heading out to the United Kingdom for a concert tour.

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    From 7 to 5

    The “American Idol” field was reduced to five on Wednesday, April 22 as Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai (center) were sent home. That marked the end of the road for one early favorite and for one singer who spent weeks barely hanging on.

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    Disco queen

    As disco week came to a close, singer Thelma Houston performed "Don't Leave Me This Way" live on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 22.

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    Let's dance

    Disco week brought a special dance routine for the group sing on Wednesday, April 22, and Paula Abdul choreographed the number. "I’ve never had any group work harder,” she said afterwards.

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    Shakin' his booty

    KC and the Sunshine Band performed "Get Down Tonight" on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 22.

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    Working on their moves

    Contestants (from left) Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Kris Allen rehearse for the group number before the show on Wednesday, April 22.

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    Still a lucky seven

    "American Idol" contestants, from left, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desai, Matt Giraud, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Lil Rounds take time for a group hug after the elimination show in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 15.

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    Stayin' alive

    Matt Giraud stays alive after receiving the first-ever Judges' Save to avoid elimination on "Idol" on Wednesday, April 15.

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    Cracking the Save

    The crowd was chanting "Save! Save! Save" behind the "Idol" judges, from left, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, on Wednesday, April 15. The foursome will have a tougher job next week when two contestants will be eliminated and the Save won't be available.

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    Teen queen

    Miley Cyrus performs her new hit, "The Climb" on the Wednesday, April 15, episode of "American Idol."

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    The view from below

    The bottom three, from left, Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds and Matt Giraud join host Ryan Seacrest to see who will be going home on Wednesday, April 15. Msnbc.com's Craig Berman said Rounds heard the worst feedback of anyone after her performance this week. And this was Desai's third week in a row in the bottom three.

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    Triumphant return

    Jennifer Hudson made her first appearance on "American Idol" since being booted off in season three. Despite her lack of success on the show, she's the only "Idol" finalist to ever win an Oscar.

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    Goodbye, Scott

    Allison Iraheta gives Scott MacIntyre a hug as the other contestants look on after the visually-impaired singer performed his swan song on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 8.

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    She's baaaack

    One-time "Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler was back to her minx-like ways on Wednesday, April 8, flirting with Simon and Randy as she sang her new single "Best Days of Your Life."

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    The bottom two

    Anoop Desai, left, and Scott MacIntyre, center, listen as host Ryan Seacrest announces who will be going home on Wednesday, April 8. Alas, it was bad news for Scott.

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    Frankie, if you will

    Frankie Avalon made a guest appearance and performed his 1959 hit "Venus" on "American Idol" on Wednesday, April 8.

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    Flo Rida in the house

    Hip-hop star Flo Rida performed his No. 1 hit "Right Round" on Wednesday, April 8. Critics have plenty to say about where this season of "Idol" stands in relation to those that have come before, but it's clearly done better this year at booking current acts to show up to play the results show.

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    8 left standing

    The top eight contestants of season eight of "American Idol," from left, Lil Rounds, Anoop Desai, Scott MacIntyre, Allison Iraheta, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud and Kris Allen are seen backstage at the elimination show on Wednesday, April 1, in Los Angeles.

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    Going Gaga

    Lady Gaga performs her new No. 1 single, "Poker Face," on "American Idol" at the elimination show on Wednesday, April 1.

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    Joy-less program

    Contestant Megan Joy Corkrey was the latest to be eliminated from the show on Wednesday, April 1. As msnbc.com's Craig Berman wrote, the font designer seemed to know she was on her way out, and flapped and cawed her way to her seat in the bottom three.

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    Comeback performance

    Season seven winner David Cook performed his single "Come Back to Me" at the season eight elimination show on Wednesday, April 1.

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    Go go power singers

    The season eight finalists performed live during the elimination show on Wednesday, April 1.

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    Go go power singers

    The season eight finalists performed live during the elimination show on Wednesday, April 1.

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Where everyone is above-average: As the judges have done all season, they emphasized just how darned special everyone remaining in the competition is, with all four talking about how it was a shame that someone had to go. “I wish you could all stay together like the Rat Pack and it should be a five-way tie, but that can’t happen,” Paula said.

“Whatever happens, all five of you are unbelievably talented,” Randy added.

Things get messy: Both Danny and Allison celebrated birthdays last week, and the five finalists celebrated by making cakes. As the cameras rolled, however, the kitchen turned into a battleground where cake went flying and icing wound up everywhere. Since the “Idol” mansion apparently does not come with maid service, Ryan presented Danny with a $6,000 bill for the cleaning. “You mean ‘American Idol’ doesn’t pay for this?” Danny said, and then looked poised to start into an argument about the money the finalists are making for the show before Ryan quickly cut him off. Perhaps Danny wasn’t aware that the country is in a recession and even hugely successful TV shows may need to start cutting costs. Then again, who charges $6,000 to clean up a food fight?

Mentor, singer, movie star: Jamie Foxx was rewarded for his guest-mentoring by appearing onstage to sing “Blame It,” and he continued to talk up the finalists once the song ended. “I saw five of the most talented people I’ve seen in the last 10 years, Foxx said, and begged the “Idol” audience to support the finalists even after the show ends. And of course, he ended with the obligatory shameless plug. “And also too, I got a movie out called ‘The Soloist.’ Check it out.”

Remember me?: Season-five winner Taylor Hicks returned to the scene of his greatest success, hoping that performing before the judges again would give him back his mojo and make “Seven Mile Breakdown” a hit. He offered advice for the final five, saying “Right now it’s about song choices, and also making the right moves on stage,” he said. He didn’t mention the importance of giving the fan base a snappy nickname, which might not be a bad move for any of the four remaining finalists. Judging from his record sales, a lot of the “Soul Patrol” that drove him to victory are now looking for someone else to carry the torch.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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